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The Rundown: October 8, 2012

49ers go to 4-1 in Historic Win

Two weeks ago, NFL pundits could – and sometimes, did – say that the San Francisco 49ers were exposed. Having looked shockingly lackluster on both sides of the ball in Minneapolis, against a Vikings team no one really thought was any good, some wondered aloud if their new-look offense would hold up through the season.

Fast-forward to today. Looks like the offense has – they just had to revert back to what they were good at. On Sunday, they did it in unprecedented fashion.

49ers RB Frank Gore contributed over 100 yards to the team’s historic offensive performance on Sunday, who went 4-1 with their thrashing of the Bills.

Seeking their second win in a row against an AFC East foe, the 49ers welcomed a reeling Buffalo Bills team by railroading them in every facet of the game – much like they did in last week’s romp of the New York Jets – finishing with a dominating 45-3 victory. In the effort, QB Alex Smith led an offensive attack that neither Hall of Fame 49ers signal-callers Joe Montana nor Steve Young ever did – an attack that finished with over 300 yards through the air, AND on the ground.

While Smith ended the day with 303 yards passing – a career-high – and 3 TDs, the rushing offense finished with an astonishing 311 yards. While their 621 yards of total offense accounted for the most-ever in 49ers history, as well as the most allowed by the Bills, they also made NFL history, becoming the first team ever to account for over 300 yards rushing and passing in a single game. Frank Gore led the ground attack, with a 106-yard effort to go along with a rushing TD. Add TD runs by QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Kendall Hunter, and the 49ers are looking more like the team that rattled off eight straight wins en route to a 13-3 record and a trip to the NFC Championship in 2011.

While this two-week offensive explosion could be called a fluke, Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com has a more sensible, and logical, explanation: the arrivals of aerial weapons like Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, coupled with a year of seasoning behind a back like Hunter, has put defenses on notice – with the threat of a deep ball, defensive backfields must honor the passing game, allowing San Francisco’s running game to flourish. Their effort on Sunday seemed to be the culmination of that.

However, things could get derailed for the 49ers’ offense, only if reports of Alex Smith’s hand injury are more serious than initially reported. Despite Kaepernick’s effectiveness in the Wildcat formation, he has little experience with the starting offense as the primary passer. And, with the New York Giants coming to town in an NFC title game rematch next week, they will need Smith’s passing prowess if they expect to win (something no self-respecting 49ers fan would have been caught dead saying two years ago). In any case, the 49ers are riding high, and, if they continue their momentum on offense, will have a beeline to their second straight postseason berth.


TCU Loses Pachall, First Game of Season

In Fort Worth, everyone realized how tough it would be to be in a major conference like the Big 12. But after the week TCU had, both on and off the field, nobody thought it would supposedly go from feast to famine so quickly.

Riding high with a 4-0 record after their win at SMU, the Horned Frogs got news that would hit them like a Mack Truck: QB Casey Pachall, immediately after a DWI arrest last Thursday, was suspended indefinitely, and without prejudice. The signal-caller, in his second year of starting in place of current Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton, has had a checkered past, including his involvement with the infamous drug bust that occurred at TCU in February.

His value behind center was crucial to the team’s transition into the Big 12 starting this year, and that value showed in his absence on Saturday’s Big 12 home opener against Iowa State. Starting freshman QB Trevone Boykins, the Horned Frogs proceeded to give up 37 points to the Cyclones, en route to a 14-point loss. The blemish snapped the school’s 12-game win streak – the longest in the country at the time – and knocked TCU out of the AP Top 25. And with reports that Pachall is “taking some time off,” the team’s outlook doesn’t get much better as the Big 12 schedule only gets tougher.

It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to say that the sudden suspension of the fledgling team’s starting QB would impact the team. Team morale is vital to cohesiveness, and a giant hit like that would have most likely affected both offense and defense. After all, TCU’s defensive unit was one of the best in the nation, before it got shellacked by Iowa State, and WR Josh Lenz’s four total TDs. Coupled with a confused kid thrust into his first game starting at QB, things seemed to have fell apart in front of the Amon G. Carter Stadium crowd’s very eyes.

On less than a week’s notice, TCU backup QB Trevone Boykin, despite 3 INTs, threw for 270 yards and 1 TD in Saturday’s loss to Iowa State.

Now, the Horned Frogs are faced with a difficult road ahead. The scrutiny that head coach Gary Patterson faces, along with the challenge of navigating through a tough first year in a major conference, will test the program’s mettle. The team was already criticized for how they dealt with Pachall and others in February. But, now, with the prospect of moving forward without their best offensive player, the team must rally around the adversity, as well as QBs Boykins and Matt Brown, in order to see this groundbreaking season through. If the Horned Frogs can persevere through the past seven days, they can get past almost anything.


Rapid Reaction: “My Year of Tebow”

He is one of the most polarizing figures on ESPN, talking about one of the most polarizing athletes in sports history. And, despite everything I know about him, as it pertains to this topic, it was still enlightening.

Of course, I am talking about one man I both love and hate on the Worldwide Leader, one Skip Bayless. Earlier today, he did what he isn’t currently known for, but what got him to the First Take debate desk in the first place: he wrote a column. This one, in particular, was about the one figure he has constantly been accused of being an “overzealous nut” for: current New York Jets QB, Tim Tebow.

I will admit – I have been in the vocal majority, as a constant critic of Bayless, and his defense of a QB who probably doesn’t deserve the starting job on any team, let alone the moniker of “quarterback”, itself. In his years on the show since Tebow came onto Bayless’ radar – the day he won the National Championship game with the Florida Gators, against his hometown Oklahoma Sooners in 2008 – he has been on his side, saying he would never doubt him again, ever since. As a result, he has been like a rabid dog, defending his position day after day, week after week, month after month, against a long list of critics that have come onto the show to tell him he was not only wrong, but crazy for it.

The truth is, I think that the column, while not necessarily warranted (despite the prospect of Tebow playing at QB in tonight’s Monday Night game against the 4-0 Houston Texans), is very insightful – not only regarding Bayless’ views on Tebow, but of Bayless, himself.

ESPN First Take’s Skip Bayless (left) has been infamous for being QB Tim Tebow’s most fervent defender. His recent column on the subject shows a different side to the story.

What most of us fail to realize – especially in the heat of the moment, while watching the constant references to Tebow and Bayless’ “love” for him – is that Bayless, in his 30-plus-year career as a sports journalist, knows the medium inside and out. He knows – as I am slowly learning, as a sports writer – that when you are a sports pundit, your opinion is your livelihood: when you have one, you defend it with your life. While he can look introspectively and understand that he has, perhaps to a fault, defended Tim Tebow with the gusto and verve of the quarterback’s most fervent fanatics, he also knows that, despite it all, he refuses to admit – nay, believe – that he is wrong.

And, while I may still disagree with him on some levels – for example, he still doesn’t fully understand the social ramifications of his comparisons between Tebow’s plight on par with those of black quarterbacks in the NFL – I can, at the very least, understand where he comes from. He is more than DJ Steve Porter’s “All He Does Is Win” – possibly one of the only things he is known for outside of the sports media world. Despite the polarizing image he portrays on television, simply for ratings’ sake, he does not truly embody the cultural and religious fanatic of a perceived “Jesus figure.” He is part of the very vocal minority that believes, with all of his heart, that Tim Tebow not only deserves a chance to be seen as a viable starting quarterback, but can win games for a franchise – which is, if we’re all honest with ourselves, kind of the only thing he has been saying all along.

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